By David Gracey
I am a member of an IT owner peer group that meets twice a year. We get together to discuss the challenges and opportunities of running an IT company. A few weeks ago I flew to Berkeley, California, to meet with the group. As always, it was informative and a great use of my time. One of the group members who lives in Berkeley showed me a new iPhone app that’s very helpful. It’s called Uber (www.Uber.com) and it is essentially a taxi hailing app on steroids. Uber is 3 years old and available in 38 metropolitan areas in the U.S. and is quickly expanding internationally.
- Installation: setup is very easy. Just download the app from iTunes and create a new Uber account. I gave them a personal email address but you can use business email, too. They don’t spam. The app is free but you have to give them a credit card number (more on that later). You’ll enter your name and cell phone number, too. Once you’ve installed the app Uber is ready to go.
- Credit Card: one of the major complaints of taxi passengers is the inconsistent availability of being able to use a credit card to pay the fare. Uber does away with cash transactions altogether. Everything, including tip, is paid for on the credit card and set to a pre-arranged amount (which you know ahead of time). Since your credit card information is already stored on your iPhone, paying the fare happens automatically. The drivers get paid weekly through electronic payment directly from Uber. It’s very easy to get a fare quote by clicking on FARE QUOTE button (they’re very creative).
- Cars: There are three types of cars you can request: UberX, Towncar and SUV. All are privately owned cars and are not through the metro Taxi system. The UberX is a pretty small car and the least expensive to hire. They are clean and are 2008 models and newer. The Towncar and SUVs are a step up and more expensive. You select the type of car you want. The driver has a different version of the Uber app which notifies him when you activate the notification. The screenshot below shows the location of a half dozen available Uber cars near me.
- GPS built in: The first thing you’ll notice is that Uber brings up a map of where you are. It also displays a map showing all available cars in your area along with an estimate of how long it will take the nearest one to arrive at your location.
- Ratings: You get to rate your driver on a 5-star scale and he gets to rate you. This keeps both parties on their best behavior and habitually low scoring drivers will get kicked out of the program. (I assume unruly passengers will get kicked out of the program as well) My drivers were very friendly and helpful.
- Call a Car: Simply click on the “Set Pickup Location” to order a car or change the pickup location to somewhere else and meet your driver there. The nearest Uber driver gets notified and has about 1 minute to respond or Uber hails the next closest car. Once accepted, you’ll get a description of the car and a picture of the driver along with his name. You can track his progress in real time on the map as he comes to pick you up. He has your cell number in case he has trouble locating you. Pretty handy stuff. Oh, and you can split the fare with another rider as long as you both have Uber accounts.
So if you are a lawyer taking a deposition in another city or a financial advisor visiting an industry gathering, let Uber get you there quickly and conveniently.